Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Persistence pays off for TUF 13 champ Ferguson

Call it cocky. Call it confident. Tony Ferguson said before and after his victory over Ramsey Nijem, that reaching the UFC was his destiny. He backed up his talk and put an exclamation point on what was a long journey.

"I was just so hungry. This was something I was destined to do," Ferguson told Cagewriter after his win at "The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale." "I wanted to do something different. I found my niche. This is exactly where I belong. I just want the paychecks to say UFC on them."

They will for at least the next year or so. Ferguson's knockout at the 3:54 mark of the first round guaranteed that. The fact that Ferguson was even standing in the Octagon on Saturday was unlikely chapter in his story.

His slot on TUF 13 was far from a given. He'd tried out two previous times and fell short.

Ferguson actually made it to the third round of cuts for Season 11. That's right, a dude who wrestled in college at 165, tried out for a season featuring middleweights. For Season 12, Ferguson flew to Washington D.C., then drove to Charlotte and didn't even make it out of the first round of cuts.

After that failure, he went back to work on the MMA minor league circuit.

"I was living paycheck by paycheck by fighting. I was living in the gym. You hear that story, but I never played that card. The one thing that I did do, I kept my mouth and kept my chin down," said Ferguson.

For Season 13, he took a more aggressive approach during the interview process.

"I went to the third tryout and brought all the aggression with me and everything I've ever had for those three years. My mom told me you kill'em with stats. 'Three time all-state at 152, two-time All American and national champ at 165 for Grand Valley State and I have a Pure Combat championship belt, and this is who I beat.' I was intense and they bought it," said Ferguson.

Once the 5-foot-9 Ferguson arrived in Las Vegas, he realized fighting at welterweight was going to be a rough ride.

"When I first got to the house I was like 'holy crap these guys are pretty big,'" Ferguson said. "The guys would say why don't you go to lightweight?"

Ferguson nearly bowed out of the competition in his first fight. Justin Edwards was giving Ferguson all he could handle before the smaller fighter pulled off an awesome upkick knockout (22:00 mark - video).

Ferguson realized he'd gone away from his roots and was trying to be too pretty in the Octagon.

"I forgot that I was a wrestler. I always wanted to just stand there and go toe-to-toe. There's nothing better than a fight that goes toe-to-toe. You slip and you move, but honestly Justin capitalized on taking me down. I started looking at that. Not so much Pernell Whitaker. That's when I got smarter," said Ferguson.

That was the turning point for Ferguson, who beat Edwards on his 27th birthday. In the next two fights, he destroyed Ryan McGillivray in 46 seconds and dispatched of Chuck O'Neil early in the third round.

After the win over Nijem, he's got a UFC contract in hand and nice bonus of $40,000 for the TUF 13 Knockout of the Night.

"I want to go to Disneyland," said Ferguson.

His fiancee Cristina, who lives near Ferguson in Ventura, Ca., has wanted to go for a while.

"Trust me we're going to go there and Knotts Berry Farm. I want to be able to have fun," said Ferguson.

Ferguson said he'll be back in the gym soon and fight wherever the UFC tells him. His future could be down at 155.


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